Bluestockings presents A Night with Kali: A Reading by Rita Banerjee – March 12, 7pm, NYC

bluestockingsnyc

A Night with Kali:
A Reading by Rita Banerjee

Bluestockings
172 Allen Street, NY 10002

Sunday March 12, 2017
7:00 – 9:30 pm

Rita Banerjee’s novella, “A Night with Kali,” in Approaching Footsteps, has just been released on Kindle Books and in Print by Spider Road Press. In Rita Banerjee’s novella, “A Night with Kali,” two people from different classes, a taxi driver called Tamal-da and his well-to-do passenger meet under unusual circumstances. Stuck together in a flood in the middle of a monsoon hitting Kolkata, Tamal entertains his bored, out-of-town passenger by telling her the story of his life. As he explains how he ended up hustling the mean streets of Kolkata, how he abandoned his rural village, and why he left his family of fishers behind, Tamal spins a tale that is both mundane and fantastic. Built on the tradition of Bengali ghost stories, Tamal’s coming-of-age tale depends as much on the supernatural as on the possibility or impossibility of human connection.

“Two novellas stand especially tall: A Night with Kali, by Rita Banerjee, begins with a taxi ride through Kolkata during a monsoon and soon develops into an entertaining story-in-a-story supernatural tale reminiscent of classic Indian literature.  In 136 Auburn Lane, novelist Donna Hillevokes a mysterious Harlem boarding house in the 1930’s, where a down-and-out woman has one final chance to rescue her pitiful existence.” -Gay Yellen

“’A Night with Kali’” by Rita Banerjee was a pair of ghost stores-within stories-within a story, set in Kolkata and the surrounding villages. The voice was distinct but unobtrusive and created a cozy familiarity with the narrator. The setting was also particularly vivid, but never got bogged down in exposition – rather, well-placed details sprinkled throughout made me feel like I’d lived in the area all my life. This was my favorite of the four, partly because it was the most upbeat. That may sound strange for a ghost story, but it works.” – MJL

Biography:

RitaBanerjeeRita Banerjee is the Executive Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and teaches at Rutgers University.  She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington, and her writing appears in Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, Painted Bride Quarterly, Mass Poetry, Hyphen Magazine, Los Angeles Review of BooksElectric Literature, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, AWP WC&C Quarterly, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Riot Grrrl Magazine, The Fiction Project, Objet d’Art, KBOO Radio’s APA Compass, and elsewhere. Her first collection of poems, Cracklers at Night (Finishing Line Press), received First Honorable Mention for Best Poetry Book of 2011-2012 at the Los Angeles Book Festival, and her novella, A Night with Kali, in Approaching Footsteps (Spider Road Press), released in November 2016. Finalist for the 2015 Red Hen Press Benjamin Saltman Award and the 2016 Aquarius Press Willow Books Literature Award, she is currently working on a novel, a book on South Asian literary modernisms, and a collection of lyric essays.

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Rita Banerjee’s novella, “A Night with Kali,” in Approaching Footsteps now available for pre-order from Spider Road Press

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00068]Rita Banerjee’s novella, A Night with Kali, will be published in Approaching Footsteps, an anthology of four compelling novellas by talented women which will keep you guessing. In the anthology, best-selling novelist Donna Hill spins a gripping tale of desperation and danger. Author Jennifer Leeper puts a unique spin on noir fiction. Writer and scholar Rita Banerjee blends a story of two unlikely allies trapped in a monsoon with a tale of murder and magic. Debut writer Megan Steusloff tells the story of an interracial couple and the deadly price that must be paid for freedom. Reader’s Bonus: Highlights from Spider Road Press’ recent flash fiction contests. Spider Road Press donates 5% of the proceeds from its titles to charities which address the issues of sexual assault, supporting American veterans, empowering youth and fighting hunger at home and abroad. Pre-order Approaching Footsteps from Spider Road Press here!

In Rita Banerjee’s novella, A Night with Kali, two people from different classes, a taxi driver called Tamal-da and his well-to-do passenger meet under unusual circumstances. Stuck together in a flood in the middle of a monsoon hitting Kolkata, Tamal entertains his bored, out-of-town passenger by telling her the story of his life. As he explains how he ended up hustling the mean streets of Kolkata, how he abandoned his rural village, and why he left his family of fishers behind, Tamal spins a tale that is both mundane and fantastic. Built on the tradition of Bengali ghost stories, Tamal’s coming-of-age tale depends as much on the supernatural as on the possibility or impossibility of human connection.

“Narrative as Provocation” by Rita Banerjee featured on The Poetry Foundation

poetry_foundationThe Poetry Foundation has featured Rita Banerjee’s article, “Narrative as Provocation” on their Harriet: A Poetry Blog today.  The Poetry Foundation writes:

Poet Douglas Piccinnini’s Story Book: A Novella (The Cultural Society, 2015) “suspends and electrifies narration mid-creation,” writes Rita Banerjee in a review of the work at LA Review of Books. “Piccinnini’s training as a poet illuminates his work, the structure of his prose echoing the long-lines of Ammons and Walt Whitman,” she writes.  More:

“These rolling lines are less biting than Ginsberg’s, but through a Stein–like interplay of sense and nonsense, his diction evokes vulnerability and makes evident the emotional, psychological, and cultural stakes involved. In this space of confusion, syntax and grammar break down as the speaker attempts to reformulate his own expression and empower his own disabled tongue. As language learns to articulate itself, ready-made forms of cultural capital — such as the privilege of being an American or speaking in the neo-colonizing tongue of English — are challenged by the speaker’s very inability to give them significance or import. In this Chapter 1 and in others, the parameters of the speaker’s life, of his identity, and of his sexuality are called into question by the birth and death of language.”

Read more about the The Poetry Foundation’s post on “Narrative as Provocation” here.

“Narrative as Provocation” by Rita Banerjee – Los Angeles Review of Books

LARB

In this week’s edition of the Los Angeles Review of Books, Rita Banerjee reviews Douglas Piccinnini’s Story Book: A Novella.  She writes:

DOUGLAS PICCINNINI’S Story Book: A Novella suspends and electrifies narration mid-creation. Story Book explores narratives of self-imposed amnesia, bloody encounters at home and on the road, Oedipal rage, suburban cocoons and the anxiety of marriage, male sexuality and therapy sessions gone awry, Catholic school and homosociality, confrontations with love, death, and surveillance, and of course, the purported cure-all of worst-case scenario guides. The “novella” is composed of a series of short stories which all begin with the title, “Chapter 1.” Each Chapter 1, laced with metatextuality, develops its own existential confusions before arriving at a moment of implosion or interruption.

Story Book is thus about a modern man, a modern artist, and a modern thinker disabled by language. The ghosts of Gertrude Stein, A. R. Ammons, and Samuel Beckett haunt Piccinnini’s prose as each chapter performs its role as self-confrontation or self-interview. Piccinnini’s power as a writer emerges when his disabled speaker learns how to articulate himself, and how to use the very language that hinders his understanding of himself, in order to climb out of existential dilemmas and tailspins…

Another Story-Book“Chapter 1” begins with the simple provocation: “What did I love?” In this chapter, the speaker sits alone at his computer trying to decipher the meaning of his relationships with women and his odd infatuation with words. He ponders the difficulty of writing an address, a story in which the perspectives of the “you” and “I” combine and trade places. He considers how easily days of productivity disappear as the writer attempts to get a sense of urgency on paper. He writes, “I feel the quotation of an afternoon, emptied — empty before me,” and then reveals:

This is the third time I’ve lived with a woman.

I’ve been in love before. I’ve been loved. I’ve also wanted to have sex with the same person over and over again but that is not love, I think.

Sex can be love. But love and sex are different, obviously. Is it obvious? Sometimes you’ll want to have sex with someone you don’t know and never want to know. You’ll find yourself destroying a complete stranger in some compromising position. It would seem to be some biological failure, love and how we live.

This is the first time I’ve been married. I love my wife. I read recently, “Love is a condition of understanding.” I’m quoting from memory. It sounds like something you might read anywhere.

A nagging sense of quotation, of living a life built on quotation marks haunts the novella. The speakers of his stories are troubled by the thought that their very human existence and their desires for creative expression have already been written and have found a home in someone else’s prose. The fear of living a life already recorded and already performed by literary archetypes creates a start-and-stop motion in Piccinnini’s prose.

Read the rest of the review on the Los Angeles Review of Books.

RitaBanerjeeRita Banerjee received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington.  Her writing has appeared in Electric Literature, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Riot Grrrl Magazine, Poets for Living Waters, The Fiction Project, Objet d’Art, and on KBOO Radio’s APA Compass in Portland, Oregon. Her first collection of poems, Cracklers at Night, received First Honorable Mention for Best Poetry Book of 2011-2012 at the Los Angeles Book Festival, and her novella, A Night with Kali, is forthcoming from Spider Road Press in October 2016. Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, she is currently working on a novel and a book of lyric essays.

CWW Creative Director, Rita Banerjee, interviewed in Speaking of Marvels for her novella A Night with Kali

KaliCoverWilliam Kelley Woolfitt, who runs Speaking of Marvels, a forum for interviews about chapbooks, novellas, and other short form literature, recently sat down to interview Rita Banerjee, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Executive Creative Director, about her novella, A Night with Kali (Brooklyn Art House Co-op, 2011).  In the interview, Woolfit asked Rita a series of questions from which were her favorite chapbooks and novellas, to questions on her current writing projects, and her advice to writers working on new projects and book manuscripts.  You can read the full interview here.  Here is a selection of questions from the interview:

What’s your novella about?

A Night with Kali is at its core a coming-of-age ghost story. The novella is about a taxi-driver, Tamal-da, who explains why he left his fishing village near Krishnapur, West Bengal, to work on the dirty and crooked streets of Kolkata. Against an oddly purple mid-day sky, the narration opens on the rain-clogged streets of Kolkata, where Tamal’s car gets stuck in a flood. To pass the time and wait for help, he begins to tell his passenger of how he came to this city and his past, which is filled inexplicably with undead things.

What are some of your favorite novellas? How did they influence your writing or your desire to make a novella of your own?

Novellas seem to capture a magical middle ground between the poignancy and sharp edginess of the short story and the more decadent, sprawling ruminations available to novelists.  Some of my favorite novellas include Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground, Leo Tolstoy’s Family Happiness, Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness, and Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49.  In Dostoevsky’s novella, the singular psychosis and at times, irredeemable actions of the narrator, an extremely likeable anti-hero, propel the narration forward.  In Tolstoy and Goethe’s novellas, both authors emphasize and exploit the desires and emotional uncertainties of their central characters to hook in the reader. And Conrad and Pynchon excel at exploring how objects, symbols, and terrain can reflect and provide commentary on the psychology and motives of characters.

What advice would you offer to an aspiring novella author?

First, read as much as you can, and don’t be ashamed to read those texts others may not consider “literature.”  Look back at the stories, essays, films, poems, speeches, etc., that inspired you the most.  Figure out what made them so effective.  Did it have something to do with the structure of the story?  The emotional authenticity and dynamism of certain characters?  The comedy and turn of events?  The ability of language to capture a lyrical moment persuasively and succinctly?  Figure out why you are drawn to certain narrative and lyrical works, analyze these texts for elements of their style, structure, and content, and from what you’ve learned, see if you can do it. Go ahead and experiment, grab some coffee or brandy if you need it, and write, write, write until you get it right.

excerpt from A Night with Kali

“By the time I reached the old Kali Mandir in the woods, I had lost sight of the shadowy white figure completely.  Walking by the main gate to the temple, I stopped in front of the arched entrance way.  The priest had not gotten up yet and had not opened the doors this early in the morning.  But through the grilled gates, I could see into the main temple hall, which rose majestically in the middle of the forest canopy.  Looking in, I saw the figure of Kali standing there, in the middle of the hall, with her wide and sinister grin. Her tongue was hanging out and in her hands, she carried a variety of weapons including a machete in one and a knot of severed heads in another.  Across her lithe, blue naked body a garland of skulls draped lightly over her breasts.  A short chain-mail skirt with links in the shape of human hands hiked up one of her hips as she stood with her legs parted wide on the body of her husband, Shiva.  Her tongue, thus, rolled down of its own accord.  Bracketed against the moonlight, she made a ferocious figure.  But there was something protective and eternal about her, too.  There was an air of mischief in her smile and the way her body posed provocatively for the spectator…

Watching the stationary figure watch me, I gave her a quick morning prayer… In the moonlight, the statue’s eyes glittered back at me.”

Full interview available at Speaking of Marvels: Rita Banerjee’s A Night with Kali

RBRita Banerjee received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Harvard.  Her writing has been published in Poets for Living Waters, The New Renaissance, The Fiction Project, Catamaran, The Crab Creek Review, and Amethyst Arsenic. Her first collection of poems, Cracklers at Night, received First Honorable Mention for Best Poetry Book of 2011-2012 at the Los Angeles Book Festival and her novella, A Night with Kali, was digitized by the Brooklyn Art-house Co-op.  She is Executive Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, and her writing has been featured on VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and on KBOO Radio’s APA Compass.  You can follow her work at ritabanerjee.com or on Twitter @Rita_Banerjee